The leading causes of death in lupus
Until recently, the most common cause of death in people with lupus was kidney failure. Now, with better therapies, access to dialysis, and the possibility of kidney transplantation, the frequency of death from kidney disease has decreased sharply. However, kidney failure is still fatal in some people with lupus. .
As death from kidney disease has declined, heart attacks and related cardiovascular diseases have emerged as leading causes of early mortality in people with lupus.
The reasons for accelerated heart disease have not been precisely delineated, but it is clear that multiple factors contribute. Therefore, it is especially important for people with lupus to minimize risk factors for heart disease.
This means regular exercise, weight control, a low cholesterol diet and cholesterol-lowering medications if necessary, and most importantly no smoking.
Serious infections, often related to the immunosuppressive drugs that may be required to treat severe lupus, also may occasionally be fatal.
What is the impact of health disparities on people with lupus?
Lupus is two to three times more prevalent among women of color—African Americans, Hispanics/Latinos, Asians, Native Americans, Alaska Natives, Native Hawaiians and other Pacific Islanders—than among Caucasian women. Recent research indicates that lupus affects 1 in 537 young African American women.
The groundbreaking LUMINA (Lupus in Minority Populations: Nature vs. Nurture) study reported that African American lupus patients are more likely to have organ system involvement, more active disease, and lower levels of social support compared with white lupus patients.
A 2014 study found that minority women tend to develop lupus at a younger age, experience more serious complications, and have higher mortality rates.